Human Rights Law & Systems

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By The End Of This Section You Will Know:

  • The UN human rights law and systems and the departments which are responsible for upholding laws
  • The human rights duty law places on the departments of the NICS
  • The law and the oversight mechanisms
  • The duty the law places on public servants

The human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland are protected in a range of international, regional and domestic legal instruments. These instruments sit within different systems of accountability or oversight.

The law that forms the basis of human rights can be found in international (United Nations) and regional (Council of Europe) treaties, which the UK has signed up to. By ratifying a treaty, the UK agrees and is legally bound to guarantee the human rights of all individuals in its jurisdiction. This places human rights responsibilities on the Northern Ireland Executive and NICS towards all individuals in Northern Ireland.

The human rights framework does not only set out in law the human rights of each individual, it also includes accountability mechanisms, such as the European Court of Human Rights, treaty bodies or special rapporteurs. These monitor the UK’s human rights record and give guidance on how Government can improve the protection of human rights. Due to devolution, these oversight bodies have also made specific recommendations and judgements relating to Northern Ireland.

At national level, the Human Rights Act 1998 gives further effect to a number of human rights and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 places human rights responsibilities upon the Executive and Departments. This means that all acts of the Ministers and Departments must comply with international and regional human rights laws.